Fellowship: University of Miami School of Law, Environmental Justice Clinic Mysun Fellow (Deadline: January 31, 2020, Miami, FL)

Fellowship starts May 2020.

This is a one-year fellowship (with the possibility of renewal) based in University of Miami School of Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic. For more information on how to join our team and on our cutting edge work, please go to: https://tinyurl.com/ejcmysunapp The deadline to apply is January 31, 2020.

The University of Miami School of Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic advocates for and seeks to empower low-and moderate-income communities who disproportionately bear the environmental, economic, and health burdens of the development, implementation, and enforcement of the law. Employing a community lawyering approach, we seek systemic change for our clients through advocacy, public policy resources, rights education, and transactional assistance. Our work sits at the intersection of civil rights, environmental, poverty, and public health law, tackling issues in South Florida including climate change, displacement, contamination, environmental health, municipal equity, and more. Increasingly, we view our work through the lens of climate change, one of the most significant social justice issues of our time, and which will be felt most acutely by the poor and marginalized.”

 

Bitcoin mining and its environmental footprint

By Ashley Kang

In 2009, a new mode of financial transactions came into the hands of consumers worldwide through the creation of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is a digital payment currency that utilizes cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer technology to create and manage monetary transactions without the intervention of banks and outside the scrutiny of government entities. Individuals can get bitcoins in several ways including purchasing them with ‘real’ money, accepting payment in bitcoins, and participating in bitcoin mining. While most people are aware of about Bitcoin’s significant presence and success in the financial market, many are unaware of the impact bitcoin mining has on the environment.  

Bitcoin mining is performed by high-powered computers solving complex computational math problems. When a computer solves a puzzle, it then stores that information in a blockchain. A blockchain is a database storing bitcoin transaction records that is distributed across peer-to-peer network. When bitcoin miners add a new block of transactions to the blockchain, they are awarded bitcoin. As simple as that sounds, bitcoin is only awarded to the miners that solve the puzzles first. The competition surrounding bitcoin mining led to individuals seeking out more powerful computers, faster internet connection, and cheaper infrastructural services, especially electricity, to maximize the possibility of profiting from bitcoin mining.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to that modern treasure hunt for riches. Computers must be run continuously and as a result, create significant demands on the energy sector. A typical server consumes approximately 1.5 kilowatts of energy. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of machines engaged in Bitcoin mining, and the environmental impact is significant. Bitcoin miners have also started to locate their computational mining equipment in geographical locations that have less restrictive environmental regulations and that offer cheap energy in order to enhance their profits. As a result, cryptocurrency mining has relied on both dirty energy sources, such as coal, as well as renewable energy. Depending on the energy source, researchers estimate that crypto mining can produce up to 15 million tons of global carbon emissions annually. Yet, local and federal governments have not created regulatory oversight mechanisms to address these new environmental issues caused by crypto mining. Undoubtedly, as new kinds of cryptocurrencies emerge and gain popularity, new regulations directing actions of bitcoin miners will have to be considered in the near future.

Position: Univ. Colorado Law School, Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Clinic, Clinical Professor (Deadline: open until filled, Boulder, CO))

“The University of Colorado is looking for a permanent clinical professor for our Natural Resources, Energy, and Environmental Clinic. The clinic’s mission and vision allow for the clinical professor to cultivate a diverse docket of cases and projects, including matters addressing environmental and climate justice as well as traditional litigation and agency advocacy.”

 

A 27-Hour Vacation in Singapore’s Changi Airport?

Even though I seem to pass through Singapore Changi Airport several times each year, I have never tried spending this much time there.  Maybe when I am Singapore this coming summer for our “Business and the Environment” course, I’ll add on an additional day just to hang out at the airport . . .

Unfortunate Comparisons between Ozone and Climate Treaty Systems

Looking for information on the (unhappy) outcomes of the Madrid climate change negotiations, this NY Times Editorial Board piece from a week ago caught my eye.  There is not anything specifically inaccurate in it.  But it just continues to buy into the conventional wisdom that the UN climate change negotiation system is a good process that, like the ozone treaties, will eventually yield success.  Unfortunately, the ozone treaties (the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol) were much simpler treaties.  When they were first created, they involved far fewer countries and were not nearly as ambitious.  There is one other issue that I wish people talked more about.  Climate change is, as a practical matter from the carbon emission perspective, not really a “global” problem, even though the global negotiation process pretends it to be.

Twenty countries account for more than 80% of the world’s carbon emissions; the top 10 countries account for 71%; and the top 5 for 61%.  (Take a look at the Union of Concerned Scientists carbon emission chart as well as the statistics of the International Energy Agency.) Imagine having a negotiation among these 5 countries, China (29% of world emission), US (16%), India, Russia, and Japan (instead of the 200 within the UNFCCC),  where the outcome would address almost 2/3 of the world’s carbon emission.  Heck, if you threw in the European Union (EU-28), you would have a whoppy 6 party negotiation and capture an additional 10% of carbon emission for a total of 71% of world emission.  Of course, negotiating among these countries would be no cake-walk.  But at least, the negotiators would no longer be able to hide in the crowds and behind the facade of semi-anual gigantic international conference with an enormous carbon footprint.